The chair and vice chair of the Electric Utility Board want you to know they hear the grumblings. In a press conference on Friday, they said they will continue to discuss with their board colleagues any workable options to take some of the shock out of the exceedingly high bills.
On July 18, LP&L Board Member Clayton Isom told FOX 34, "Even after this increase, they're paying less for their electricity than they would be with anyone else in the state of Texas."
However, a week later that story has certainly changed.
LP&L Board Chairman Gail Kring said, "We are probably running about the same or a little more then Amarillo right now with this rate increase, but we have always run below them. So, we are somewhere into the rest of the state, which we are still below the state average."
Mayor Glen Robertson said, "The answer is we are actually not in the lower tier of rates anymore. As of June, we are now above the state average."
On LP&L's website it's in black and white. As of June, the LP&L rate is more than $2 above the state average, but Mayor Robertson said there's an even bigger issue.
"The focus has been diverted from the real problem that hit our citizens, and that is the fuel cost," he said.
Mayor Robertson said customers were mislead about their June bill and passing through the fuel costs now at 100 percent made it much worse.
"The fact that we combined that with a rate increase at the worst possible time for the rate payers I think that is what created the fire storm," Robertson said.
LP&L Board Member George Carpenter said the rate consultant told board members very clearly about raising rates and the fuel costs.
"The fuel costs would be passed on 100 percent, and that was brought up several times," he said. "The thing that we didn't know was that it was going to go up so cotton-picking high, and that's the thing that tore us completely up."
Councilman Victor Hernandez said, "The only way we are going to truly affect the rate either short term or long term is to decrease the cost that LP&L has."
City Council will consider some options Tuesday including the possibility of rolling back the current rate until October, and changing the fee LP&L charges to setup a payment plan.
Members of the Electric Utility Board will also be at that Tuesday meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.
Chairman Kring said in the mean time LP&L has made some changes:
- About half of the customer base that was under billed in June will be able to make up that shortfall over a six-month period starting in October.
- LP&L has designated four customer service rep's to specifically handle rate complaints.
- The board is now taking citizen comments during its meetings.
Councilman Hernandez also added two more agenda items for council to take up during Tuesday's meeting. He said these budget ordinances could help fix the increased rates.
Hernandez is proposing to suspend the franchise fees LP&L pays to the city for a period of at least two months.
He's also proposing that the costs associated with street lights be shifted back to the general fund for two months.
Hernandez said, "In order to offset the loss to the general fund associated with these proposals, I am putting before Council a budget amendment which will absorb these costs through the use of additional sales tax revenues collected up to now and through the end of the current fiscal year (amounts over what was originally projected).”